Turning off the Old Kings Highway onto Old Beach Road in Flagler County, Florida, really is like stepping back in time. The dusty, unpaved track seems to shoulder its way between the encroaching trees into what is today Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park.
At the end of the track is a beautiful spot beside Bulow Creek, where the Bulow family Plantation House once stood.
In 1821, Charles Wilhelm Bulow bought the rights to an extensive tract of land in eastern Florida. At 9000 acres, it is believed to have been the largest property in the state, and the 2200 acre Bulow Plantation was its crown jewel.
Unfortunately, Charles died less than 18 months later, leaving the task of completing the transformation of this wild land into a number of plantations, including Bulow itself, to his son, John Joachim.
In reality, that’s not quite true. Sadly, this was the time of slavery, and the back-breaking physical work of creating a farmable plantation at Bulow from the thick bush and swamps actually fell to between 300 and 400 slaves. As you walk from where the Plantation House once stood, you pass subtle shapes concealed in the needle-strewn forest floor, which mark out the slaves’ houses.
During its heyday, Bulow Plantation produced copious quantities of sugar cane, cotton, rice and indigo. At the heart of the plantation’s working life, was the massive sugar mill, built of local coquina, a stone comprised of crushed shells. Here the cane would be processed into refined sugar and molasses.
However, although prosperous, the Bulow’s tenure in this area was destined to be short-lived. In 1836, the Second Seminole War swept through the area and Bulow Plantation was destroyed, along with many others.
Today, all that really remains are the ruins of the sugar mill, which give the State Park its name. They stand as a testament, not only to the strength with which they were built, but also to this important, if difficult and fleeting, episode in Florida’s history.
This post was inspired by Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which this week is Buildings and Trees, Jennifer’s One Word Photo Challenge, which is Appliance (OK, so calling a sugar mill an ‘appliance’ might be stretching it, but it’s all fun, right?), and of course Jo’s Monday Walk.
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